March 15th, 2014
05:04 PM ET
8 years ago

McCain calls U.S. military support for Ukraine "right and decent"

(CNN) – Speaking in Kiev, Sen. John McCain called Saturday for the United States to provide long-term military assistance to Ukraine, saying it is "the right and decent thing to do," as reports surfaced that Russian troops had traveled farther north into Ukraine from Crimea.

McCain was part of a bipartisan delegation of U.S. senators who traveled to Kiev ahead of Sunday's secession referendum in Crimea. The White House and U.S. allies in Europe have denounced the referendum as unconstitutional and illegal because Russian troops have essentially taken over the southern Ukraine peninsula.

McCain also had strong words for President Barack Obama in an op-ed appearing in The New York Times. He called for the President to take actions to restore the United States' credibility and strength around the world.

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"Crimea has exposed the disturbing lack of realism that has characterized our foreign policy under President Obama. It is this worldview, or lack of one, that must change," wrote McCain.

Obama's administration, McCain wrote, supports the perception that the U.S. can "pull back from the world at little cost to our interests and values. This has fed a perception that the United States is weak, and to people like Mr. (Russian President Vladimir) Putin, weakness is provocative."

For McCain, this is embodied by a scaled-back missile defense program and defense budgets illustrating "hope, not strategy."

In his op-ed, McCain wrote that Iran and China have "bullied" America's allies and paid no price, and Bashar al-Assad crossed President Obama's "red line" by using chemical weapons in Syria and remains in power.

McCain portrayed Putin as determined to bring Russia's neighbors "back under Moscow's dominion by any means necessary." Putin's aggression in Crimea, McCain argued, is a symptom of "growing disregard for America's credibility in the world."

"Crimea must be the place where President Obama recognizes this reality and begins to restore the credibility of the United States as a world leader," McCain wrote.

In a press conference in Kiev, McCain and seven other senators, John Barasso (R-Wyo.), Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Christopher Murphy (D-Conn.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), said Congress stood with the people of Ukraine. They called for strict sanctions against Russia. However, McCain went further than his colleagues.

"Ukraine is going to need a long-term military assistance program from the U.S. - equipment both lethal and nonlethal," said McCain.

"They ask for some modest means that can help them resist. I believe we should provide it," McCain said.

McCain's comments followed a report Thursday from the Wall Street Journal that the U.S. balked at a Ukrainian request for military aid, and was wary of heightening tensions with Russia.

When reached for comment by CNN, a senior administration official at the White House would only confirm that a number of requests from Ukraine are on the table. Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk was in Washington earlier in the week to meet with Obama and U.S. lawmakers.

McCain called on the Obama administration to come to the aid of the Ukrainian government and people "in their hour of greatest need."

McCain's trip to Ukraine followed his efforts over the past week to pass legislation in the Senate.

The Senate package includes $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees, as well as $50 million to boost democracy building in Ukraine and $100 million for enhanced security cooperation for Ukraine and some of its neighbors.

It also includes proposed sanctions against individual Ukrainians and Russians responsible for the violence against anti-government protesters and those who have undermined the stability and sovereignty of Ukraine.

However, the measure has stalled in the Senate as it also includes approval of long-delayed reforms at the International Monetary Fund that are opposed by many Republicans.

McCain said on the Senate floor Thursday he was "embarrassed" that fellow Republicans were putting disputes over the IMF and campaign finance reform ahead of the Ukrainians.

But in Kiev on Saturday, McCain sounded more optimistic. He said that Congress and Obama would work together on supporting Ukraine.

"This is too serious for partisanship," McCain said.

Murphy, a supporter of the measure, also spoke of the Senate taking an active role as events unfold in Crimea.

"The world is watching, and the message that we bring today both to Ukraine and to Russia is that the United States Senate is watching as well," he said.

McCain and Durbin said they spoke with Secretary of State John Kerry and Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Kerry returned to Washington after meeting with Russia's foreign minister in London.

Power was present at the U.N. Security Council in New York, where a U.S. drafted resolution declaring the Crimea referendum invalid was vetoed by Russia. Thirteen of the 15 Security Council members backed the resolution, while China abstained from the vote.

Overshadowing the events of the day were reports from the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine that about 60 Russian troops in six helicopters assisted by three armed vehicles crossed into Ukraine's Kherson region, which borders Crimea.

The State Border Guard Service of Ukraine said the Russian troops were on the ground and the Ukrainian guards had taken defensive positions.

Power, speaking to press after the session, said that if Russian troops had crossed further into Ukraine it would be an "outrageous escalation."

Filed under: Chris Murphy • Dick Durbin • John Kerry • John McCain • Russia • Ukraine
soundoff (546 Responses)

    McCain is a senile moron, I do not remember any conflict that he did not wanted to be a part off.
    I hate "socialist" Obama but now I am wondering what would be the situation if McCain won.

    Are there any normal people that could run to be a president?

    March 15, 2014 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  2. KEVIN

    Putin is not behind this and the Russian group who is behind this is going to fail profoundly. It's a diversion tacted and we are not going to feed into it.

    March 15, 2014 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  3. sisterchef

    To John McCain: Please shut up. Thank you.

    March 15, 2014 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  4. Jamie Estevez

    As much as I loathe Obama being President of the United States I get chills up my spine when I think of how close the foaming at the mouth, warmongering psychopath McCain and the halfwit hockey mom Palin were close to the Presidency. Thanks be to the Almighty that McCain is not the Commander and Chief. As Michael Savage has pointed out John McCain=Dr. Strangelove.

    March 15, 2014 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  5. Ethan Vanderbuilt

    I wonder. Do we unleash the Germans on them?

    March 15, 2014 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  6. GOP = Greed Over People

    Oh geez, I just reread the list of his "posse" and realized he left his ventro dummy here in the states.

    So, we have Ms. Graham to look forward to on the Sunday talk shows, flappin' her wooden lips(oh how that screams for a snark about splinters, but I am on my second apple martini and feeling charitable)!

    March 15, 2014 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  7. ram

    Oh please, just stop, Mr. McCain. Really?? Just once if you would let the people actually in charge do something without spouting your opinion it would be really refreshing.

    March 15, 2014 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  8. Monica

    The United States need to keep its nose out of this one. It cannot provide for its own people with basic healthcare and 22% of the Armed Services families are on food stamps!!

    March 15, 2014 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  9. Grayling

    Thank God John McCain is not running this country!! He is an idiot of the first magnitude. Military support for Ukraine where we have no vested interest, are not threatened, and in so doing would touch off a world war??? I hope he has a day job because McCain will hopefully lose his next election. Maybe he should quit now and safe us the trouble. What an idiot!!

    March 15, 2014 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  10. Tampa Tim

    I am no longer sure that McCain is on the side of America. He would be better served to keep his mouth shut. Did John just demand that Obama take over the world militarily?

    March 15, 2014 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  11. JustASec

    Regardless of the majority of the nation lacking an appetite for another war, McCain is doing his best to drag the US into Ukraine.

    March 15, 2014 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  12. JohnDoe

    Unless McCain backs the people of Ukraine, but he certainly does not back the people of the United States.

    March 15, 2014 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  13. king

    lesson Obama, we need to send the Atlantic fleet to the black see, we need to start mobilizing the US force in Germany and Italy to start a joint exercise with the Ukraine armed forces, you need to mobilize all of Europe to come join in with this exercise. let the Russian knows that we aint just begging them to stnd down. we are telling them not to invade this country. Obama your ratings is down in the dumps and it wont come up for a long time, you have nothing to lose. put America back on the map again. this is no policing nor war. this is deterrence. if the Russian people want to get wiped off the map. tell them to come try us up.

    March 15, 2014 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  14. Klondike bar

    And boom goes the dynamite...

    March 15, 2014 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  15. Tampa Tim

    Today we are all Georgians, . . .er I mean Somalis, no, that's not it, today we are all Libyans and we need to arm the insurgents. Wait, I meant Ukranians.

    When Rick Perry threatened secession, I don't remember McCain going to Texas.

    March 15, 2014 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  16. dl

    Short of WW3, there's not much the West can do

    March 15, 2014 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  17. Anonymous

    Of course republicans love war...

    March 15, 2014 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  18. Bren111

    Send your own family McCain!

    March 15, 2014 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  19. Steve

    Of course republicans love war....

    March 15, 2014 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  20. DAVID

    Mr. McCain, please stay in Ukraine and never come back. The Ukrainians need you more than the Americans. In fact, you did nothing in the Senate, if you stay in there, you may save some our money. Hope you get paid from the NEW Ukraine govenment.

    March 15, 2014 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  21. won

    Mc. Cain: you need to retire. We're in debt and we cannot afford any financial aid to UK. Please leave.

    March 15, 2014 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  22. rad666

    Average Americans are tired of war.

    March 15, 2014 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  23. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    The only way to show proof of not being weak in McCain's world is war. Thank God he's not President ot in any position to go it alone. This man is crazy.

    March 15, 2014 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  24. Saboth

    McCain, time to close up shop. The US is not the World Police any longer. I know in the past we've looked for any excuse possible to go to war with X and Y in order to justify our excessively bloated military and keep defense contractors happy, but with 17 trillion in debt (something Repubs love to point out), there is no reason for us to be in Russia, protecting the interests of countries that actively hate the US. Same goes for Syria, Iraq or any of these other countries that have faced or are facing civil wars or abuses by dictators. If the UN feels strongly about it, let them handle it.

    March 15, 2014 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  25. Lee

    support Crimea, Eastern and Southern Ukraine in their rights of self-determination.

    Western Ukraine got their way overturning the last election (they disagreed with) with the "peaceful" (as described in media) but armed COUP so why can't other regions "self determine"?

    And McCain never met an intervention or money and blood draining war that he didn't like. Those Senators do nor belong there but should do their job at home.

    March 15, 2014 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
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